Author Archives: Jay Paul

Oumou Sangare – Mogoya (No Format)

Her fifth studio album in 27 years, this powerful vocalist obviously puts much thought into her compositions. Here she seeks to speak to the new generation in Mali, but using many traditional instruments & with much respect for Mali’s musical heritage. Outstanding!

Mamadou Kelly – Politiki (Clermont)

Malian desert blues from a master guitarist who played for years with Ali Farka Toure, performing with an impressive collection of fellow musicians; their band is called BanKaiNa. All original compositions (the first seven are by Kelly). Great new sounds from the Sahara!

Emel Mathlouthi – Ensen (Partisan)

The Loreena McKennitt of Tunisia? One might say this brings to mind a fusion of Celtic & Arabic soundscapes, with creative vocals that soar, throbbing Tunisian-style percussion, delicate layers of electronica, & fascinating arrangements featuring traditional Tunisian instruments. Known for her anthems during the Tunisian revolution, the theme here is a condemnation of dictatorship. Last […]

Niyaz – The Best of Niyaz (Six Degrees)

The band’s favorite tracks, mixing ancient Sufi poetry & folk songs from diverse religious & ethnic groups in their native Iran, original compositions by vocalist Azam Ali & multi-instrumentalist Loga Ramin Torkian. A.R. Rahman featured on track #5. Many good ones here.

Mashkoor Ali Khan – Transcendence (Nimbus)

A collection of ragas faithful to the tradition of the Kirana Gharana and the 13th century musician Gopal Nayak. Vocalist Ustad Ali Khan is a descendant of this line, born in Kairana in Uttar Pradesh (India), from which this music gets its name. You can feed your spirituality with this.

Cilantro Boombox – Shine (self-released)

New fusion from Austin TX, mixing Mexican & other Latin influences with soul, rhythm & blues, African beats, & rock ‘n roll. Defies classification but pleasing nevertheless.

Big Mean Sound Machine – Runnin’ for the Ghost (self-released)

More fine tunes from this Ithaca, NY based Afrobeat-jazz-space band. More than a dozen musicians, with an amazing percussion, a blazing brass section, bass you can feel in your stomach, layers of synthesizer & other embellishments, exciting compositions… Don’t miss this!

Vieux Farka Touré – Samba (Six Degrees)

New songs from a remarkable Malian guitarist (& son of superstar Ali Farka Touré), recorded in a NY studio with a live audience. Lots of guests & two tracks with Idan Raichel on keyboards. Title means “second born,” an auspicious position in Malian families. Exciting guitar & compositions!

Daymé Arocena – Cubafonica (Brownswood)

Second collection of Afro-Cuban gems from this creative young (born 1993) Cuban singer-songwriter, first discovered & nurtured professionally by Gillies Peterson of Havana Cultura fame. All tracks composed by Arocena & recorded in Cuba with contributions from 20 other talented musicians plus some super producers & arrangers.

Ondatropica – Baile Bucanero (Soundway)

New tracks recorded in Bogota, Colombia with 35 contributing musicians led by Will (Quantic) Holland & Mario Galeano. Elevates traditional Colombian music to the point of doing righteous homage to centuries of African, English, & Spanish cultural heritage. Exceptional!

Mariah Parker – Indo Latin Jazz Live in Concert (Ancient Future)

The vibrancy of live music, the poignancy that flows from an ensemble of top-tier musicians led by this gifted composer/pianist, the spice of musical traditions from places far away with hot climates…it’s all here. All compositions by Mariah Parker. Filed under World/International

Janka Nabay & the Bubu Gang – Build Music (Luaka Bop)

Built on traditional “bubu music” with roots in Sierra Leone, and still authentic, but re-imagined with trancey, pumping rhythms, samples from African bubu horns (like flutes), deep bass, & Janka’s signature vocals with chorus embellishments. Excellent music!

Tamikrest – Kidal (Glitterbeat)

Tuareg rock ‘n roll, with beautifully intertwining bass & rhythm guitars, lilting beats, & plaintive vocals about the pains and joys of the Tuareg people. Recorded in Bamako & named after the band’s Sahara Desert home in southwest Mali. Nice Tuareg music! More here:

ANTH: Cape Verde – Synthesize the Soul (Ostinato)

Lively music originating with those who fled tumultuous times (1973-1988) in this former Portuguese colony, an island 350 miles off the coast of West Africa, who preserved Afro-Iberian music but adopted electric instruments along the way. Lots of electric accordion, guitar, fast percussion, & soulful vocals. Fun!

Flavia Coelho – Sonho Real (World Village)

Title translates “Real Dream” …a reference to Flavia’s journey from the ghettos of Rio de Janeiro to her successful musical career in Paris. Brazilian flavors mixed with reggae, ska, & a bit of French pop.

Ani Cordero – Querido Mundo (self-released)

Title translates “Dear World.” Here are original Latin folk songs of love & protest, gently sung in Spanish by this Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter with the instrumental support of some of her closest musical friends.

Barika – When the Time Comes (self-released)

Intricate West African soundscapes with brilliant musicianship & wonderful flourishes of jazz, psychedelia, orchestral brass, & guest vocalists: Listen for Craig Mitchell, Daby Toure, Kat Wright, Matt O’Brian, & Stephanie Lynn Heaghney. This is an A+ CD! Listen to Barika here

Aquaserge – Laisse ca Etre (Crammed Discs)

A core of 5 musicians from Toulouse France, plus 11 of their friends, join forces in a new collaboration exploring a fusion of rock, pop, chanson, & French film music. Lyrics in French, translations in liner notes.

Chico Mann & Captain Planet – Night Visions (Bastard Jazz)

Nicely arranged and produced Afro-Latin boogie from two veteran LA/Brooklyn producers/DJs, Chico Mann & Charlie Wilder (Captain Planet).

The Klezmatics – Heretics (World Village)

Celebrating their 30th year as the most renowned band of the klezmer sub-genre, yet again reinventing the 19th century Yiddish folk music of Eastern Europe, here is their latest irreverent, evocative, celebratory offering. If you like klezmer, you already know…

Ethiopiques 30 – Mistakes on Purpose (Buda)

Girma Bèyènè was an Ethiopian singer, lyricist, arranger, & musical legend in the 1960s-70s. Following the ascension of Stalinist dictator Mengistu Haylè-Maryam after a 1974 coup, Girma looked for a way out of Ethiopia. During a 1981 tour in the U.S. with his Walias band, six of the band members slipped away and remained in […]

Gabriella Ghermandi – Ethiopia (ARC)

This Ethiopian vocalist & composer has created richly evocative Ethiopian fusion featuring many regional instruments in performances using traditional anchihoye, bati, & ambassel pentatonic scales; the latter often used in songs celebrating historical events as this CD does. The theme of the recording is a salute to the Victorian era Emperor Atse Tewodros II, who […]

The Nile Project – Jinja (self-released)

Second in a series of wonderful collaborations between musicians from diverse ethnic groups living (or formerly living) along the Nile River & its watershed (includes musicians from Burundi, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, and Uganda). Features original compositions conceived at a gathering in Jinja, Uganda (hence the title) for a project aimed at education, regional […]

Afrosonics – People Meet Your People (self-released)

An 8-piece band from Boise Idaho but including members from Congo, Nigeria, & Suriname, plus guest musicians. The music is more western than African, except for the percussion, but the musicianship is fine and there’s some nice funk in there! FCC violation on CD1 track #2.

The Gypsy Cuban Project – Havana Night Sessions at Abdala Studios (Universal)

Great Cuban rumba, salsa, & ballads, with distinctive additions of clarinet, accordion, & Gypsy brass & violin. Effort led by a Romanian Gypsy Damian Draghici & 14 other Eastern European musicians, who flew to Cuba to jam with locals and explore synergies. Should appeal to fans of both genres.